Plans in works for expanded $65 million metro tech college
FARGO – The North Dakota State College of Science is outgrowing its site here and administrators are proposing an expanded center at a new location.
The project, which has been presented to the state Board of Higher Education, has an estimated price tag of $65 million and would be built in phases if approved by the board and lawmakers.
“Our square footage is gone,” John Richman, president of NDSCS, said last week. “We’re using every square inch of the building.”
For more than 15 years, the two-year Wahpeton-based college has maintained a satellite center on 19th Avenue North near the campus of North Dakota State University.
But enrollment growth and increased demand for workforce training have prompted administrators to request more space.
The Fargo and West Fargo school districts alone are projected to increase a combined 1,500 students in the near future. North Dakota’s workforce need is 27,000 jobs, including 8,000 in the Fargo area, according to figures cited by NDSCS.
The NDSCS center in Fargo has 56,433 square feet serving an enrollment of 687 as of last fall. It trains graduates in fields including manufacturing, information technology and allied health professions, such as nursing.
Classes are from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. four days a week. “In my belief, that’s a pretty full day,” Richman told The Forum Editorial Board in a meeting last week.
Lots of support
To meet projected growth, a study recommended expanding to 210,000 square feet over time, with 170,000 square feet in the first phase on a campus of 15 or 20 acres capable of accommodating 700 to 800 parking spots.
A center of 210,000 square feet would allow all programs to be housed in a single building.
“We’re not asking for another campus,” Richman said, adding that the new center would serve students who commute to class, so residence halls will not be needed.
“This is truly going to be North Dakota’s first community college,” Richman said, adding it would be much like Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead.
The expanded center would not require additional administrators, with top leadership continuing from NDSCS’s main campus in Wahpeton, Richman said.
Projected costs for the project include $3.45 million for planning, permits and insurance; $9 million for land; almost $8.3 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment; and $38.75 million for construction.
A spokeswoman for interim Chancellor Larry Skogen said he supports the proposal.
“I think Chancellor Skogen thinks this is a great idea,” said Linda Donlin, the university system’s director of communications.
“North Dakota State College of Science has been very successful in its present location,” she added. “We think it’s a wonderful opportunity, both for NDSCS and the university system.”
Industry partners support the project, and so far, legislators who have been briefed on the proposal have been supportive, recognizing the need to train a rapidly expanding workforce, Richman said.
NDSCS’ current building is owned by the college’s foundation, a site acquired about 17 years ago from the NDSU Foundation, Richman said.
If the project is approved, the college would seek funding in the 2015-17 budget to acquire land, with later funding requests for design work, followed by construction in two phases.
“We can do this in phases, and I think we need to do it in phases,” with the current building in use until the second phase is complete, Richman said.
A site for a possible expanded center has not been selected, but logically would be in Fargo or West Fargo, where it would be strategically located to serve high schools in the two cities as well as Kindred, Northern Cass and Central Cass.
Although there is a widespread perception that the greatest demand for workers lies in western North Dakota due to the oil boom, the eastern part of the state actually has a greater demand for workers, Richman said.
“This facility, I believe, will help the workforce issues across the state,” he added. “It just happens to be located in the largest city.”